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Welcome to Animation Globe where Headstuff’s animation expert Joseph Learoyd analyses films of the form from around the world. This entry is on 2008 Australian stop motion animation $9.99.
Written and directed by Israeli animator Tatia Rosenthal, $9.99 focuses on a number of different characters living in a Sydney apartment complex who look for purpose in their daily lives. The main character buys a book about finding the meaning of life which costs the title amount.
This is a strange film. Its characters interact in a way that is appealing but somewhat off-putting at the same time. They manage to communicate with one another but without feeling quite like colleagues or family members. Meanwhile, the animation fits this style, looking grittier and more adult – somewhat evoking Fantastic Mr. Fox or Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids. There is some noticeable clunkiness in parts in terms of character movement. This is only minor, however, as in other areas small character beats and emotion enhancing hand movements successfully express how a protagonist is feeling, leaving the animation feeling distinct and fresh.
Yet looking at the narrative itself, something again feels off. Yes, its themes are important. Each story is very loosely tied together by each protagonist yearning for something and subsequently learning a lesson. That said, there is little cohesion in terms of these tales’ conclusions with each segment ending differently, some more optimistically than others.
$9.99 certainly touches on concepts and ideas that are complex. Segments explore topics like being yourself versus changing for others; finding sentimental value in small things and coping with death. But the stories don’t ever quite cross paths. This, coupled with the little emotion invoked by the characters, leaves it difficult to truly love them. There is a clear lack of depth to each protagonist, making it hard to really identify with certain parts of the film – leaving it feeling drawn out and long-winded in places.
The voice cast is one area where $9.99 shines. Featuring the likes of Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia and Ben Mendelsohn, they manage to add realism to their characters. There’s also strong characterisation in the tone of voice; emphasis on words and syllables; and fluidity of lip sync. Lips aside, however, the facial expressions were difficult to get a grasp on, often not complimenting the body reactions and leading to confusion by the end of segments.
I appreciate the style here and the way the animators tried to make the movie stand out as its own unique thing but each segment didn’t quite blend together when compiled together as a film. Perhaps the narrative would have been served better as separate shorts. If intrigued, I suggest going into the movie with an open mind. However, while artistic and powerful, it’s hard not to feel emotionally distant to $9.99 in the same way the characters act towards each other.